Margaret, one of our Consumer Affairs’ team members makes the most wonderful dinner rolls you have ever eaten. She has been making them for about 60 years. I think it’s fair to call her the expert! Margaret and I did a little fuzzy math and came to the conclusion she has made well over 150,000 rolls so far. She makes them for every family event and always has a ready supply in her freezer. Now considering she has 8 children, 25 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren, that’s a lot of dinners, graduations, weddings, parties, etc. for which to bake rolls. She even makes them for her co-workers once in awhile. Her recipe is aptly named Grandma’s Dinner Rolls.
Amanda (daughter-in-law and fellow blogger) and I decided it would be fun to bake Grandma’s Dinner Rolls with my mom, Betty. It was a great activity for three generations of bakers on a Sunday afternoon. Since yeast dough needs time to “rise” we were able to enjoy the time talking and playing cards with my dad as well. With Mother’s Day coming up maybe you’d like to spend a day baking with your grandmother, mom, sister, daughter or friend.
Yeast dough takes a bit of time to make. It’s not that it requires a huge amount of hands-on time but, it does require “rising” time. So be sure you allow about 2 ½ hours from start to finish. Remember, most of that time you can be doing other things.
After church Amanda and I headed over to my mom and dad’s. My mom already had all the ingredients and equipment laid out and ready to go – isn’t she great?
Amanda has not had much experience with yeast dough recipes so we had fun showing how easy yeast dough really is to make. First, you need to activate the yeast. In other words, you need to start the yeast growing by waking it up (with water) and giving it a little food (sugar).
Place the warm water in a small bowl. If you have a thermometer you want the water to be between 105°F and 115°F. My mom didn’t have a thermometer (she’s baked for so many years she just knows how warm the water should be by touch) so we just used warm water from the tap. It should feel warm but not hot. If it is too hot it will kill the yeast. I don’t want to get too technical or carry on about science, but here's a quick lesson on yeast. Yeast is a living organism. As it grows it converts food into alcohol and carbon dioxide. It’s the carbon dioxide that makes the dough “rise.” Ok, enough science. Sprinkle the yeast and ¼ teaspoon sugar into the warm water, and stir to dissolve.
Now let the mixture stand for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture will start to foam. That’s how you know the yeast is growing. If it doesn’t start to thicken and foam you may have killed the yeast. Then it’s best to start over with fresh water and another packet of yeast. Also, make sure you check the date on your packet. If it’s past the code date it may not work.
While you’re waiting for the yeast to foam, place the milk and butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is almost melted.
Combine ¼ cup sugar and the salt in a large bowl. Add the warm milk/butter mixture and mix well.
Add the egg and beat until well mixed.
Check the temperature of the mixture in the bowl. It should be less then 115°F. If you don’t have a thermometer it should no warmer then the water you added the yeast to earlier. Add the yeast mixture to the milk mixture in the bowl. Beat until well mixed.
Add 2 cups flour.
Beat until smooth.
With a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time, until the dough is easy to handle. Be careful not to add too much flour. I prefer the dough be a little sticky since I know I will be kneading in additional flour.
Let the dough sit or “rest” for 5 minutes. Sprinkle a small amount of flour on a clean surface. This is where you will be kneading the dough. Again, be careful not to use too much flour on the surface as you can always add more if needed.
Turn the dough onto the lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. This takes about 5 minutes of kneading. To knead, press down on the dough with the heals of both hands pushing away from your body; turn the dough a quarter turn and fold it over on top of its self. Repeat the process. Add more flour, a small amount at a time if the dough is sticky. I kneaded for a minute or two and then let Amanda knead so she could learn how to do it and know what “smooth and elastic” means.
Place the dough in a greased bowl (I used butter to grease the bowl); turn the ball of dough greased side up. That way the butter is coating the entire outside of the ball of dough. This keeps the dough from drying out while it rises. In this photo I am turning the dough but you can see how smooth and elastic the dough looks.
Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until double in size. This takes about 45 to 60 minutes. The photo shows how my mom always sets up dough to rise. First we filled a bowl with very hot water from the tap. Then we put a cooling rack over the bowl. Next we placed the bowl of dough on the cooling rack and covered it with a clean kitchen towel. The warm water creates a nice warm environment for the dough to rise. While the dough is rising it does not need to be watched so you can feel free to do other things. We played a game of cards.
Here is a photo of the dough before the rising began.
Here is the dough after it has doubled.
Another way to tell if the dough has doubled in size is to stick a clean finger in the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready.
With a clean fist, punch down the dough. I always enjoy “punching down the dough.” We all laughed about what a strange term it is yet, it does describe what you do. At this point Margaret lets her dough rise a second time. If you have another hour, feel free to give it a second rising. Just cover the dough again and replace your warm water in the bowl. Let the dough rise for about 45 to 60 minutes or until double in size. Your rolls will be just a little more light and tender. We were anxious to taste the rolls so moved on to the next step. The recipe for Grandma’s Dinner Rolls does not include Margaret’s second rising step.
Divide the dough in half. A serrated knife works great to cut the dough.
Cut each half into nine equal parts. To make it easy, first cut each half into thirds. Then cut each third into thirds. Now you should have 18 pieces of dough.
Shape each piece into a ball. I did a little demo for Amanda. I just pinch and pull the dough down until the top of the piece is smooth and round. Then I tuck the pinched parts together and place that part down on the greased baking sheet. Margaret usually pushes down on the top of each roll; we didn’t do that to ours. We used one large baking sheet knowing that some of our rolls would touch once they had risen. If you don’t want the rolls to touch use a couple of baking sheets and place them further apart.
Once all the dough has been shaped and placed on the baking sheets cover with plastic food wrap. Spraying a light coat of no-stick cooking spray on the plastic wrap will help it not stick to the rolls. Let rise in a warm place until almost double in size. This takes about 30 to 40 minutes. We used the same method to create a warm place to rise as we did earlier but this time we used a 13x9-inch pan filled with hot water instead of a bowl. The baking sheet fit over the pan better than the bowl.
The photo below shows the rolls after they had risen for 30 minutes and are ready to go into the oven. See how the rolls are touching?
Heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the rolls for 12 to 14 minutes or until light golden brown. They smell heavenly while they are baking.
Once they come out of the oven you can brush them with melted butter. Of course, my mom said she wouldn’t bother melting the butter but, would just rub the end of a stick of butter over the tops of the rolls. Both ways work just fine.
Amanda commented on how long it took to make the rolls. I pointed out we didn’t really have to do anything during the rising times and that we were able to play a couple of games of cards. She agreed, and said they really were easy to make and didn’t take that much “hands-on” time. Here we are showing off our wonderful rolls.
Oh, and my dad couldn’t stand it. He was the first to have a little taste. I think he was the happiest of all. He got to spend the afternoon with three of his “girls” and had homemade dinner rolls too! Life just doesn’t get much better then that.
Thanks Margaret, for sharing your wonderful recipe. I know I enjoyed every minute I spent making them with my mom and Amanda. I’d love to hear about your experience making Grandma’s Dinner Rolls. Also, please take a few minutes to rate and review this recipe.
On Thursday Amanda is back in the kitchen making a Pillsbury Bake-Off® recipe using LAND O LAKES® Butter.
Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchens for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.